Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another Writerly Day

Just a quick post to say that I'm writing like crazy, and that Veronica is doing great.

The House of Goats project is really ripping along. I wrote about 10,000 words yesterday and the prior evening. Don't know how many of those words I'll keep, but I'm encouraged that the writing and revision of this book will be swift and full of awesome.

I've also, as of yesterday, got twenty two short stories floating around out in the big, wide world. With a bit of luck, someone will love one (or more!) of them enough to want to put them in print.

On the gardening front, I sprouted (inside, in a jar) a few snow peas and fava beans. The soil temperature is most likely going to be too cold for them to do much but shiver after I've planted them, but if not, that'll be a nice head start to the year. The danger of frost is still very high, but both of these species are cold-tolerant plants. They may survive a bit of nippiness. If they get frost-killed, I'll have only lost a few cents worth of seeds. But if they survive ... mwa ha ha! I'll have a potential for a very early harvest.

I'll be sprouting another group in about two weeks, onward through March, at which point I'll be able to start more than these two plants that laugh in the face of bitter cold. Those plants will probably stay inside until April or June, though.

I think I like early gardening. It's kinda fun, like gambling with food.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Must Write Faster, One More Mouth to Feed

I know, I never call and I never write.

Actually, I write a lot, but I haven't had time lately to post. I've been working on House of Goats. A couple of times today I had a crisis moment, thinking this couldn't possibly interest anyone outside of our family, but then I'd start giggling about what happens next ....

Several hours later I then have another long moment of doubt ....

We also have a new kitten. It's not my fault! Okay, it's totally my fault. A friend of my son's called. Their cats weren't getting along with the new kitten, and they absolutely couldn't keep it, and they couldn't find a new home for it (cue violin music) and it's a little siamese sort of thing except it's sort of calico, and it's about six weeks old (yowza, too young!) and and and

and I said (totally lying to myself) that we could take her in, at least for a while, and if nothing else we'd find a new home for her.


She was older than six weeks, thank goodness, but she was pretty tiny compared to our cats. And she was decidedly not cute. My DH wasn't impressed either. Quote: That is the ugliest cat I've ever seen.

I don't know about the ugliest. True, it looks like her head was put away wet in a dark place until mold took hold. But oh, what lovely blue eyes. More to the point, she was quite ill. We're talking blood in the eliminants, both sorts, obvious signs of worms and fleas, lackluster appetite, overly sleepy, etc. We isolated her from the rest of the cats and I had my son call his friend back. Where did this cat come from? A friend of her mom's. Can we get this friend's phone number? Her mom doesn't have a phone number or any contact information. (Wow, must be a really good friend. ?!) Has the cat had any shots, and has it been tested for FIV or feline leukemia? No idea. I'm not sure she even knew those were issues.

So I made an appointment for the morning and wondered if the poor thing would make it through the night. She did, and she did exactly what I wanted her to. She fought like a crazy demon thing. They couldn't get a temperature on her, and it took three people holding her down to draw blood for the test.
She had strength and a will to live.
The stress from the tests and exam and worming and de-fleaing and change of environment took its toll, though. About an hour after we got her home, she got really wobbly and her gums turned pale. I fed her a mixture of 1/4 tsp of karo syrup with a few drops of heavy whipping cream, by the vet's order after a frantic phone call. She perked up, and after a good meal and a long night's rest cuddled up under the blankets in the master bed (we're such suckers for sad cases) she bounced back higher than she'd fallen. Now all she has to worry about is finding her spot in the kitty pecking order.

I'd better get back to writing. We have another mouth to feed!

New kitten specs:

Name: Veronica
Approximately 3 months old--I've decided she's a Halloween baby.
Weight: 3 pounds
FIV and feline leukemia free!
Likes long slinks through the living room, playing with socks, sitting or sleeping on shoulders while owners are typing (she's totally a writing cat) attacking toes under blankets, and sleeping under blankets--sleeping on top of blankets with no people to snuggle against is for cats who fail at life. She is on premium Iams kitten food, which often gets poached by the other kitties. Does not like the big white puppies, but Dakota is okay.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

House of Goats

It sure sucks to live here.  Bleh.

I started work on a new simple life book, "House of Goats."

I'm having way too much fun with this.   I remember all the mistakes I made when we first moved out into the country very well.  You know the stuff I'm talking about, the stuff I started blogging about, with mouse nests in the ceiling, and goat escapes, dog escapes, sanity escapes ... the good old days that just won't stop happening to me.  The question my kids keep asking is how close to the present will I write into this?  I have no idea.  I keep getting new material every day, like my ongoing obsession with January gardening, which is somewhat reminiscent of my late evening gardening where I contemplated gardening by torchlight to extend my gardening day.  

I'll write until I find a good stopping point, I guess.

Latest Kami-brained scheme--raising chicks in my mini-greenhouse on the deck.  I'll let you know how it goes.  It could be full of awesome, or fail to the max.  Either way, I suspect that little greenhouse will never be the same again.

Heck yeah chickens will go into the book.  The House of Goats just wouldn't be complete without The Smartest Chicken in the World.

Some links to peruse:

Hard-Boiled Mystery Writer Robert B. Parker, RIP--died with his boots on (at his desk)

FYI, on Dean's page, you'll notice that the Agents Know Markets myth post has 96 (or more by now) comments on it.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cats in Lap

I had a cat-in-lap attack yesterday. Two cats on my lap: Carey and Wizard. Wizard pinned down my legs, while Carey sat right up by my belly, with my laptop, out of reach, in between them.

This makes it really, really difficult to write. I tried for a while, but then gave up while the cats enjoyed me as furniture.

They're like those coworkers who never seem to have anything better to do than to come by your cubicle and talk about stuff. And you like them, and they're talking about interesting things, but there's, you know, work to do.
But they don't care. They're cats. Er, I mean coworkers, who either have all their work done or just don't do their work and don't care.

They're snuggly kitties, so I forgive them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gardening in January: Yes we can

We had a bright, relatively low-wind (only about 10-15 mph winds) day so of course I dashed outside in my work shoes and grabbed a rake. I also wanted to grab a hoe, but I couldn't find it. I'm sure it's someplace dark and scary. Poor hoe, all alone ...

Anyway, I'm pulling off as much stuff from the surface of future veggie beds as I can prior to getting rid of the sod. All that material doesn't have much in the way of nitrogen and nutrients anymore. Rain and plant action (plants pull as much nutrition our of their leaves as they can get away with to store up for spring growth) have made sure that the compost I make from this stuff will be lackluster at best. But there's one thing that can't be taken away from me.

Rough material to help break up the clay. I can fertilize, then lay the compost on top to help feed the top soil into something less clay-ey.

So I plan on composting as best I can in our relatively warm winter climate and then turning this stuff into a mulch. Now, back in the old days, before reading up on our region, I would have thought I wouldn't be making enough compost to really bother with. That's before I found out that it only takes about 1/4" to make a difference to the soil. More importantly, it's harder for our local pests to hide in thin rather than thick mulches.

Pests aren't that big of a deal for most ornamentals, but they are to tasty veggie beds. If you live in the Portland metro area, btw, you might try baiting for slugs now. Because of the warmed-up weather, they're out of hibernation with special ferocity, and will be even bigger and stronger when real spring comes along thanks to this bonus feeding time. If you have slug problems, the more you can get rid of now, the better it'll be come spring, and the less likely it'll be that your first flush of perennials will get chomped down to soil level the second they poke out a few buds.

I'm incredibly sore, and I haven't even gotten to the next day soreness part yet. Part of me is hoping for more good weather, while another part is wondering if a little rain might not give me a good excuse to put a full day of writing in tomorrow (and recuperate from raking. Yikes.)

On the writing front, I got a nice letter from a big glossy SF/F magazine--my story has moved on to consideration by the main editor. Wish me luck!

And now, for general amusement: Yet another reason why we shouldn't get a ferret.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Confessions of a Gardening Addict

I'm planning my garden. OMG, there's so much to do before I pick up shovel, rake and hoe it's crazy-making.

My huge helper this year is Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon. My DH is being his bestest patient self as I go on and on about garden plans and issue questionnaires to my family about what they'd like to eat next year. I'm only halfway through this book and I feel like I'm six months behind in garden prep--a good thing, because it gets me crackin' during what's normally down time for gardeners. I also am enthusiastic about annual veggies again, after lackluster performance from everything except zucchinis, tomatoes and blackberries. (These are the staples with which I was hoping we could survive a zombie apocalypse because nothing else was really doing well. Except pumpkins that one year. But I digress.)

It turns out I hadn't addressed two important regional problems and one semi-important regional problem. Now that I know how to fix my leeching nutrient problem, help beat back symphylans (I didn't even know they existed before reading this book) and decide which overwintering veggies to protect from rain (whoda thunk I'd have to protect my artichokes from rain, for Pete's sake?) I see great things a'comin'. Especially leeks. Mmm, leeks ...

I'll resist going blah blah blah about too much of this. But I will say that if you have had problems raising veggies in the extremely wonderful growing climate west of the Cascades from B.C. to Northern CA, this is a must-read. Buy, or grab a copy from your local library.

pictured: monarda, aka bee balm or bergamot, from my garden

stories in mail: 20
novels in mail: 0

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rejections Attract Dreaded Bird

Apparently a lot of editors take home their slush piles for reading material over the holidays. Heck, that's what I'd do if I were an editor. Sitting by a fire with some hot chocolate and a pile of potentially wonderful stories sounds much nicer than sorting through that plus all the other business during a normal work week.

Anyway, the holiday reading period led to a whole bunch of rejections washing up on my writerly beach.

As we all know, a pile of rejections is more fragrant than a lone rejection, increasing the chances that a dreaded Usuck doomsayerii will notice them. This obnoxious bird tends to park itself near a writer's desk and sings its distinctive, cheerful song with full-throated glee. It positions itself so that droppings end up on fresh manuscripts and its singing often drives off fresh writing. Its song also encourages critical writing and over-editing, which often helps increase its supply of rejection slips.

An acceptance doesn't chase off the Usuck doomsayerii. Persistently ignoring it and quickly filing away those rejections is the surest way for writers to rid themselves of this bird. Sending manuscripts back out promptly also helps, as this bird often uses languishing manuscripts for survival food when rejection slips are scarce or unavailable. Deny it fodder and attention, and hopefully the bird will fly away to pester some other hapless writer.

Stories out: 17
Novels out: 0

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Getting things done with Kami

I've been on a cleaning binge between writing binges. My family probably thinks I've gone crazy, which is to say, I'm just being my normal self but my madness has begun to manifest in new and fascinating ways. Dishes are done. Counters are swept. Catboxes are spotless (and now Carey/CareBear/The Fluff Muffin/Evil One is guarding her favorite by sitting in it so that the other cats don't mess it up.) Get this--last night I took a toothbrush and a bowl of soapy water and scrubbed the edges of my kitchen floor.

I know. It's so wrong, but feels so right!

It's like a New Year's Resolution picked me instead of me resolving to do anything. I gotta tell you, it's much easier this way than the other way around. New Year's Resolutions die long, lingering deaths around here. Not pretty. If I don't care enough to do something year-round, it's not gonna happen.

Unless something randomly goes ping! and then suddenly I have a deep and abiding interest in weekly microwave freshening. Use lemons. It's full of awesome.

I think eventually my family will tie me down and exorcise me. Until then, it feels good to live and write in an increasingly clean house.

I'm hoping that exercise bug will bite me again soon, too. Then I'll be sleek, and have a beautiful house ... with the landscape fabric I got for Christmas and my obsession with gardening, I could make people disgusted with me for years to come. Yay!

Massive amounts of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or other perception/emotion-altering substances were not consumed prior to posting this blog entry. 100% pure hyperactivity purified with all natural, organic process employing renewable resources and green energy.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tales of Silver Frog Kings

I got three stories out in the mail this last week.  Two are resends, one is new.  This week I'm hoping to get two new stories out and to make more headway on the novel.  The writing continues.

I grew up on fairy tales, mostly Czech but there were others thrown in there.   There's something compelling about fairy tales that lures me in like no other story form.  Part of it is, I think, that fairy tales highlight and emphasize moments in a human life that we normally take for granted.  Meeting an old woman on the road.  The fairy tale warns us that hey, you don't really know who she is and what she's about.  Ignore that at your peril!  Walking a road we take often.  Complacency can kill.  Taking things from the land or from animals without considering that nature may fight back in unexpected ways.  How simple mistakes can lead to dire, even deadly consequences.  And of course how seeking one's fortune hinges so much on what we do, what we say, and how bold and/or polite we are when we go to try and make a living for the first time. 

Fairy tales look at all that stuff and more.  Even the watered-down or weirdly contorted ones sanitized by a society trying to keep its children insanely naive, mistaking that naivete' for innocence ...

Yes they can be sexist and racist and all that.  Not looking at that doesn't make it go away.  We're still sexist, racist and all that.  Recognizing that on the page can reveal and teach too, and help those of us opposed to such things where we were, how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go.  It might even hint at what going too far might look like.

So here's to good old-fashioned, gory, scary, horrible fairy tales.  If you love them too, or want to learn more, try out a new resource:  Enchanted Conversations


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Don't Surrender to the Blahs

It's a gray, dry day with little wind, with sweatshirt-is-fine temperatures. The days are a tiny bit longer than last week. I've wanted to go outside more than usual, so I'm glad the rain quit. I'll be able to walk around in my garden, which almost always perks me up.

I really need some perk-ation today.

I've been sick this last little stretch. I haven't had much energy for much of anything. Today I'm feeling much better, darned near normal, but I'm exhausted. I've probably been fighting this cold without realizing how long I've been fighting or how much energy it took. Now that I can relax a bit the body is ready for a long nap only three hours after a full night's sleep.

But I'm trying to get things done anyway. Writing is at the top of my list.

It's tough to write when I'm tired. It's especially hard to get started and stay focused for that first little bit. I know from experience that if I can get over that wall, the way is pretty easy after that. So my goal for today is to get writing on something for at least ten minutes. If I can write that far, I may be able to write for an hour or more, maybe take a nap, and then write for ten minutes (an hour or more) in the evening.

I think it's critical to make myself do this. If I don't, then every time I feel a little blah, I won't start writing. If I don't start writing even when I'm feeling blah, I won't learn how to write while blah. Not a big deal if writing is a hobby, but that's a serious problem for a full-time writer. I can't afford to have a long list of excuses not to write, or a even short list if that list has common occurrences. I'll cut myself some slack if I'm really ill-feverish, weak, barely able to get out of bed kind of illness. I'd be crazy to write in that state anyway. But this sort of slouching, weary, generic malaise? I can write in bed if I really need to, and sip tea. I was washing dishes earlier. If I have the strength to wash dishes, I have the strength to write. Maybe the writing will be iffy, but it might also be quiet, considered writing that comes from writing at a slower pace. If I wasn't coming off of a cold I'd probably exercise to pump my metabolism up. As it stands I think my body actually needs the rest to finish recovering, so I'll respect that. But I won't toss my writing goals out the window.

I suspect I won't be writing any action scenes today, though.